Cabinet to decide on Youth Zone plan
14 July 2011
Wigan Borough will have a state-of-the-art new multi-million pound new youth facility to rival any in the country for a fraction of the cost to the taxpayer.

That’s the finding of a report into the proposal to create a new youth club on Mesnes Field in Wigan Town Centre that’s due to be discussed by the council’s Cabinet this week.

Since 2008 council chiefs have been investigating a proposals to bring a facility similar to the successful Bolton Lads and Girls Club model to Wigan spearheaded by local businessmen Dave Whelan, Martin Ainscough, Bill Ainscough and regional charity On Side.

The centre – which had the working title Wigan Lads and Girls Club, would provide high quality sports, arts and recreational facilities that would be available and affordable to all children aged 8 to 19.

Wigan Council’s Youth Service and a group of young people from the borough have been working with the other partners for the past 18 months in a bid to progress the bid.

A report to the council’s Cabinet reveals that the council’s contribution to the building costs of the multi-million pound centre would come in the form of a donation of the land – which has been currently estimated as worth £31,000.
As part of the deal the council has also been asked to contribute 40 per cent of the annual running costs of the centre – a figure of £400,000.

But the report says that officers have found a way of meeting these funding requirements at no additional cost to the council.

Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Efficiency, Cllr Ged Bretherton, explains: “We have looked at the buildings the council currently owns and what their future is likely to be and as a result have come up with a plan to see if money raised from any sales could help to fund this project. For example, once the new Life Centre opens the Civic Buildings will no longer be needed by the council so there is potential to use the money from its sale to help fund the council’s financial contribution to this scheme.

Cllr Bretherton adds: “If Cabinet agrees to back the recommendation it could mean the borough gets a youth centre worth around £6M in exchange for a relatively small additional outlay on behalf of the authority. Whilst we cannot pre-empt the deliberations of Cabinet this would appear to be a very good deal for the borough.”

Under the plans the centre would be open until 10pm every day of the week and also provide outreach services to other areas of the borough. Facilities are expected to include sport, music and art studio, a climbing wall and all-weather sports pitches.

Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Cllr Susan Loudon says: “It is an exciting plan that would give Wigan a world-class youth facility. It is estimated that up to 3,000 young people would use the centre each week so it would certainly give a lot of children something positive to do. It would not only help to provide meaningful activities and development opportunities for children and young people but also help reduce children’s involvement in anti-social behaviour as a result.

 “Whilst no decision has been taken as yet we believe that it is a testament to the council’s prudent financial planning that means we are still in a position to even consider a major regeneration project such as this one during such difficult financial times.”

The report, which will be debated at a meeting on Thursday July 7, asks cabinet to approve the establishment of the Youth Zone.

Speaking about the bid, one of the Youth Zone’s main sponsors, Wigan Borough business leader Martin Ainscough, says: “I sincerely hope that the Council’s Cabinet can give the green light to this facility which will help thousands of young people in the years to come.  If approved this is a great example of the public and private sectors working together for the good of the town.”

Local businessman and sponsor Bill Ainscough says: “I am delighted to be involved with the Youth Zone. It will bring world class facilities to the youth of Wigan and I know they will benefit enormously.”
The Wigan bid is being supported by North west-based charity On Side, who successfully manage the prestigious Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

Chief Executive of On Side Jeremy Glover, MBE, adds: “I am delighted to help in any way with the ambition to build a modern 21st Century youth zone for the young people of Wigan. I led the Bolton Lads and Girls Club for 30 years and saw at first hand how young people grow and prosper when they are provided with a place which is safe, welcoming and full of activity. There is no better way of investing in the next generation.”